People often ask, when is a good time to practice mindfulness, or to meditate. It’s tempting to answer, when you feel like it, but there are practicalities! Like not when you’re working or traveling or cooking or being with family and friends, in other words when there are lots of distractions. Yet, it’s not as crazy an answer as it seems.
First of all, we’re talking about pausing, being in the moment, aware, present, in your body, focused on your breathing, letting go, noticing thoughts rather than caught up in them, being the observer or witness. You can do that anywhere and at any time. You can have a quick five-minute meditation even. The thing is, most people don’t do that.
It should be said right away that dealing with distractions is part of the practice. We need to learn to manage how we let the rest of our life get in the way.
The mind gets powerfully seduced every other moment in the stream of ego consciousness. We go off on one thing after the other. You might notice this even when specifically meditating at your appointed hour. A few breaths, feeling a bit more still, and then you’re off on some tempting line of thought or reverie, even without noticing you’re doing it, till say 5 minutes later you suddenly become present again, notice what’s happened, and return to your breath. Which is excellent, by the way, because you’re practicing being mindful. Yet, most people don’t see it like that and beat themselves up instead.
So, the point here is that you can practice mindfulness at any time. In fact this is invaluable since it helps you maintain your self-awareness, check negative thoughts and feelings and return to a centred state. The practice is key, since it helps reinforce the discipline that we need. Practice, practice, practice.
Thus in the middle of a meeting, if you’re feeling stressed, you can just breathe, become aware, and focus on your breath, or on a train or in a noisy, crowded airport while waiting for your delayed flight.
A practical time
However, from a practical point of view, to really help develop an effective grounding in mindfulness, it pays massive dividends to dedicate a specific time of day to the practice. Find a quiet place, ideally a room of your own, where you won’t be interrupted by others, the phone, etc., get a comfortable, upright chair, sit in an upright posture, perhaps with a small cushion in the “small” of your back, your lower back, and with your feet gently placed flat on the ground and your hands facing down on your thighs or on top of one another facing upwards on your lap. Breathe in deep and breathe out long, and repeat two or three times, relax, let go, and then as you breathe normally, allow yourself to focus your awareness on your breath. And keep doing that, bringing your awareness back if it has drifted off on some line of thought. Give yourself 10 or 20 minutes, or more if you can.
Do this regularly at a particular time of day to suit your rhythm, which might be after you have got up in the morning and washed but not yet eaten, and before work. Or it might be when you get home, in the early evening, before eating. Those are two of the most common times. It might be at lunchtime, but again before you eat as your stomach will otherwise be very occupied managing that food! Some people even get up early to meditate, and find that the meditation compensates over time for the sleep.
It is the regular practice that is crucial, and giving yourself some dedicated space and time absolutely fundamental to really anchoring the practice – and in coming home to your self! Then over time and with practice, you can come more and more to those quiet, silent, still points, the gap in the stream of consciousness expands, and you notice more and more the bliss that lies within! Isn’t that tempting!
I coach people to develop their mindfulness and meditation practice. To contact me, click here.